Local sites are one of the next great web opportunities. But the great local sites, even the very good local sites, will be those that are intensely local – not the local spawn of a global or even national mother-ship, not clones of a single success.
Nevertheless, there are global opportunities in supporting and enabling the wave of local sites to come. If you are an entrepreneur who wants to succeed in local, you’ll have to decide whether you want to succeed locally by making a local site a success or globally by empowering the success of very individual local sites.
Since these sites will serve a single locality or a cluster of nearby places, they will have neither the need nor the budget to invent technology. They will succeed based on their content and the online dimension they add to the existing local communities; but they’ll fail if their technology sucks.
The success stories of today aren’t the conglomerates of bloggers – they are the individual blogs that have become hits or category leaders, the tools that made blogging so easy to do, and the information services that made blogs discoverable and searchable. The success stories of local will be community sites – some horizontal, some vertical, some large, some small – that have become essential and the tools that enable these sites to concentrate on content and community rather than technology.
There is an opportunity for someone to build the Six Apart of local: Six Apart hosts blogs like Fractals of Change on its TypePad service and provides its MovableType blog publishing software to those who want to host elsewhere. My guess is that most successful sites won’t self-host. If I were launching a business like this today I’d be tempted to resell Amazon hosting space and computing power behind a powerful and growing set of templates and widgets which made it drop dead simple to start and grow a local site.
Blogs only have rudimentary community tools embedded in them. Local sites will need powerful community tools. Will MyBlogLog, which supplies community tools to blogs, expand into this space? Or will you meet the need of the local sites with your new service?
You could be the del.icio.us of local by providing a tool used within local sites for sub-communities to find the best of what ever they’re interested in. The technorati equivalent may be a service which allows travelers to find what they need in local sites as they travel or plan travel.
It’s a good bet that local sites will use technology like RSS and podcasting and videocasting. Who’ll make it all simple for them and their readers like FeedBurner and FeedBlitz do for blogs and blog readers? (disclosure: I am an indirect investor in FeedBurner and a direct investor in and board member of FeedBlitz.) What are the other technologies that local sites’ll need help with?
Local sites will be largely ad supported. Some will have a local sales force to sell ads to local merchants but how will they get locally-targeted national ads? You could start a business selling ads nationally and parceling them out locally. You could be the Federated Media of local site advertising. Or you could wait for Google to get this figured out and start a self-service local ad division. Better to do it yourself and let them buy you.
Related post: For Web 2.0 Success - Think Local, Act Local